Canadian musician Brandy Zdan isn't a new artist by career standards.
Zdan was a member of the acclaimed Canadian folk duo Twilight Hotel in the mid-to-late 2000s, until she relocated to Austin in 2011 and later to Nashville in 2014. In Music City, she found a home and a place to help refine her indie-rock sound. Her self-titled debut album arrived in 2015, followed by 2018's Secretear.
But it's her forthcoming album Falcon that sees Zdan in a new light. You could say her indie rock sound has softened thanks to touches of alt-country and Americana, which help her express the difficult emotional turmoil she experienced during the global pandemic.
"I gave birth in a pandemic, became a mother in isolation, pressed pause on my career, lost my livelihood, battled postpartum depression and faced some of the darkest moments of life", says Zdan. "Grand plans of big producers and fancy studios fell away, and I had to figure out a way of telling my story on my own".
It wasn't just new motherhood and having to navigate that experience in the middle of a worldwide crisis that informed Falcon. Before the birth of her first child, Zdan had a miscarriage; the loss — and the silence she felt around her grief — comprise the first half of the album.
When she started writing about that whirlwind, Zdan found it resonated in big ways by addressing the unspoken. "Everyone talks about being vulnerable, but there’s something different about this. This is the type of shit women aren’t supposed to be vocal about", she said.
Falcon is due out Oct. 29. Ahead of its release, Zdan talked about her Winnipeg roots, growing up listening to her Canadian singer/songwriter forebears and what she has planned next.
Where are you from and has that influenced the type of artist you are?
I’m from the middle of the Canadian cold prairies, Winnipeg, Manitoba. That city was so important in my formative years. The cold incubator winters where you hole up and practice, create and dream — and the talent, wow, the talent.
I was surrounded by some of the most gifted musicians at a young age. The incredible Winnipeg Folk Festival would bring in the most amazing acts that I never would’ve seen otherwise. Some of the most influential shows I saw as a teenager were at that festival.
What were you listening to growing up?
I was a BIG Beatles fan but then ventured into the folk music of my homeland: Joni Mitchell, Neil Young. I also dove into jazz in my late teens as well. Rock 'n' roll was always at the forefront though.
Did you ever want to do something other than music?
The short answer is no. Have I had to at different times to keep the lights on? Yes. I’ve been fortunate enough to make my living off of music most of my adult life. It’s looking a little different now pandemic-wise and family-wise and I’m trying to figure that all out.
There’s a lot of different ways to have a career in music and it’s just about finding what’s right for you. Indie artists always had to be resourceful, but in these times it’s tenfold.
Are you more creative when you’re happy or when you’re sad?
I can be inspired in any state of mind. I think the key is remaining open, to always be searching. You never know where the muse might be hiding.
What drives you the most?
Chasing a sound in my head, chasing a song. I always want to get better, whether it’s guitar playing, songwriting or helping others shape their sound.
In general which comes first for you, the title or the song?
The couple of times I’ve written a country song it’s been the title first, but it’s always the song.
Who would be your dream collaboration?
I would like to work with Daniel Lanois or Blake Mills on a record one day. To me, they are all the things. Incredible writers, producers and guitar players, and I’m just inspired by everything they have a hand in.
More producing, more engineering, more everything. I’m already shaping the sound for the next record. The break from touring has allowed me to do so much and it’s gonna be hard to go back, to be honest. Everything has a season, and right now it’s for me to be focusing on the actual music vs how many dates I have in the calendar.
Brandy Zdan's new album, Falcon, is out October 29th via Lucky Rose Records.
Photography by Alysse Gafkjen